VERA FILES FACT CHECK: MISLEADING post revives 2013 article on Chinese mining activity in Zambales

At least two netizens on May 3 reshared a seven-year-old opinion piece about Chinese companies using dummy Filipino firms to mine for nickel in Sta Cruz, Zambales province.

Without context, the posts mislead readers into thinking that it is a recent article, coming just days after the Philippine government protested Beijing's establishment of two districts in the contested South China Sea, west of Zambales.

Reposted on Facebook groups Defense of the Republic of the Philippines and People’s Choice Movement, the 2013 article carried by koreanewsonline.blogspot.com is the same July 22, 2013 opinion column of Jarius Bondoc in The Philippine Star.

At the end of the article, it says “With report Jarius Bondoc Opinion published from philSTAR.” The post copied the column word-for-word, but changed the headline. From Bondoc’s “Chinese have ‘invaded’ Zambales mainland too,” it became “Chinese invaded Zambales, blow up mountains, Killing farmers and seize Nickel into hi-tech weapons to sabotage the Philippine military and economy.”

Bondoc’s column delved into the activities of three “Chinese conglomerates,” that used local companies to set up five small-scale mining firms which in reality used sophisticated equipment and technology to mine for nickel.

The thumbnail used is a supposed screenshot of an aerial view of Sta.Cruz, Zambales where the mining activities were carried out. The image and article is also found in another blog, pesoreserve.com. The two sites share the same Google AdSense code, indicating that one person or organization manages both websites.

Using social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, the blog’s story from 2013 was reshared in 2016 and 2017, obtaining over thousands of shares on Facebook (FB). The latest FB posts recorded at least 97 shares, 239 reactions and 49 comments.

The story was revived following Beijing's latest move in the disputed South China Sea, which Vietnam, another claimant, also protested. The article also came shortly after the government allowed the partial resumption of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) while many places in the country are still under quarantine. Majority of POGO workers are from China.


(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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